Every Thursday, The MMA Corner will take a look at three regional or international cards, previewing from each a single fight to which people should pay close attention. We will also list other significant bouts from the card, as well as information on how to follow each promotion and watch the events.

Let’s discover those prospects that fight in the obscurity of the regional and international circuits, waiting for their shot at the bright lights and big stage of the UFC, and those veterans looking for one more chance at stardom. It all begins here, in the small convention centers and high school gymnasiums. It all begins with promotions such as these…

Deep 65 Impact

Differ Ariake in Tokyo
Event Date: March 22
Website: deep2001.com
Twitter: @deep_official

Spotlight Fight:
Ken Hasegawa (7-0-1) vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura (20-11)

Remember the old days of the UFC, when there were no weight classes? Well, those days may be long gone, but the Japanese Deep promotion keeps some of that spirit alive with its Mega-ton title. The championship has no limitations on weight, therefore providing fighters from different weight classes with the opportunity to test their skills against much larger or smaller foes. Ken Hasegawa, who checks in at approximately 220 pounds, is the reigning champion, and he’ll put the belt on the line against Deep’s middleweight kingpin, Kazuhiro Nakamura.

Nakamura’s name should be familiar to most MMA fans. The 34-year-old’s first pro fight came against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira under the Pride banner in 2003. He tallied an 11-6 mark with Pride while fighting as a light heavyweight and heavyweight. The third dan black belt in judo then shifted to the UFC, where he suffered two losses, and Sengoku, where he advanced to the finals of the promotion’s middleweight grand prix. After stops in Astra and Dream, Nakamura landed in Deep, where he claimed the vacant middleweight strap in early 2013 with a victory over Young Choi. “King Kaz” is 7-1 over his last eight fights. The Yoshida Dojo fighter has gone the distance in 13 of his victories. He has just four wins by some form of knockouts and three via submission.

The 27-year-old Hasegawa has only been fighting professionally since 2011. He fought exclusively under the Deep banner until late 2013, when he traveled to China for a fight with Jacek Czajczynski that ended in a draw. The Mega-ton champ is best suited for the light heavyweight division, but he’s competed against a number of fighters that tip the scales near the upper limit of the heavyweight division. The Kingdom Ehrgeiz product tends to win with his fists or by way of decision. The southpaw has engaged in some entertaining brawls in the Deep ring.

Nakamura’s 20-11 record may not look all that impressive, but the judo practitioner has been fighting elite competition since the very start of his career. He lost six fights under the Pride banner, but those losses came against Nogueira (twice), Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett (at heavyweight) and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. His first UFC loss was handed out by Lyoto Machida. Even his more recent losses to Jorge Santiago, Kazuo Misaki and Gerald Harris illustrate the level of competition the Nakamura has seen in over a decade in the sport. Hasegawa cannot compare in that regard. He has just over three years of pro experience, and the best opposition he has met is Hirohide Fujinuma (12-5-2), Seigo Mizuguchi (12-15) and the aforementioned Czajczynski (7-6-1). That’s a 31-26-3 mark from his best adversaries. The remaining fighters on his resume are inexperienced and hold a combined record well under the .500 mark.

Although size could be a factor in this affair, Nakamura is accustomed to fighting light heavyweights and heavyweights. He’s seen it before, and Hasegawa’s frame suggests an out-of-shape light heavyweight. He can brawl, though, and there’s a chance he could test Nakamura’s chin. However, if the Pride and UFC veteran is able to avoid engaging in a boxing match with Hasegawa, he could add another title to his trophy case. Hasegawa fought to a draw against an underwhelming fighter, but the judges won’t be as kind to him in this contest. Nakamura is a master at working for decisions, and he’ll do so here to claim the Mega-ton title.

Other key bouts: Masakazu Imanari (27-11-2) vs. Yuki Motoya (9-4), Yoshiyuki Yoshida (16-6) vs. Shigetoshi Iwase (12-15-4), Seiji Akao (17-8-2) vs. Koichi Ishizuka (7-1), Takahiro Ashida (11-2-2) vs. Yoshiki Harada (6-4-1)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 66

Ballerup Super Arena in Ballerup, Denmark
Event Date: March 22
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event:
Fight Now TV (USA)
Premier Sports (United Kingdom)
Setanta Sports 1 (Ireland)
Fight Network (Canada, Portugal, Turkey, Angola)
Fight Klub (Poland)
Setanta Action (Africa)
ESPN International (Brazil, Latin America, Pacific Rim)
Viasat (Scandinavia)
MMA Junkie (USA/Canada)
Sportube.tv (Italy)
JOE.ie (Ireland)
cagewarriors.tv (rest of the world, excluding the United Kingdom)
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Sergei Churilov (15-1) vs. Nicolas Dalby (11-0)

Cage Warriors is at it again. After sending a troop of top fighters to the UFC in recent months, the British promotion is looking for the next wave of stars. It certainly has found a pair in the once-defeated Sergei Churilov and the undefeated Nicolas Dalby. The two welterweights compete for the recently vacated 170-pound belt in the headlining affair of Cage Warriors 66.

Churilov is a 28-year-old fighter hailing from the Ukraine. He is a world champion in pankration who has been competing in MMA since 2010. The Combat Dobro product has translated his pankration background into a stellar base for his MMA career, in which he has posted seven submission victories and four first-round victories by some form of knockout. However, his game is far from perfect. He tends to be content to engage on the feet, though his best qualities lie in his submission game. His hands aren’t that great, but he will throw an occasional kick that can catch opponents off-guard. His takedowns also leave a lot to be desired. He’s often forced to drag opponents to the mat using his weight. Churilov is on a five-fight winning streak, but he has benefited greatly from the level of competition he has fought—those five recent opponents combine for a 6-11 record and the best record of an opponent he’s defeated stands at 5-3. His lone loss came to Ivica Truscek, who now sits at 24-20 over his lengthy career.

Dalby shares a common opponent with Churilov. Both men have met Truscek in action, but whereas Churilov suffered a TKO loss, Dalby twice emerged with decision victories over the Croatian. The 29-year-old hails from Denmark and, like his Ukrainian counterpart, Dalby launched his pro career in 2010. The Rumble Sports product has five wins via decision and three each by strikes and submission, but his most notable quality is his striking arsenal, which incorporates leg kicks.

The Dane is the far superior stand-up fighter. Unlike Churilov, Dalby is aggressive in his approach and uses leg kicks to score quick points. His hand speed will allow him to land counters against the much slower Churilov. Comparing performances against common opponents is not always a means to determine the outcome of a fight, but Dalby’s ability to solve the riddle of Truscek’s unorthodox style where Churilov couldn’t speaks volumes for this fight. The same goes for the combined record of Dalby’s five most recent opponents other than Truscek—it stands at 37-17. Dalby has proven himself against Truscek and a number of fighters with winning records while Churilov has feasted on subpar competition. This fight will end in a TKO victory for Dalby. The only question then will be how long Cage Warriors can retain the new champ’s services before UFC matchmaker Joe Silva comes calling.

Other key bouts: Mohsen Bahari (6-1) vs. Bruno Carvalho (15-7), Damir Hadzovic (7-2) vs. John Maguire (19-7), Toni Tauru (8-1-1) vs. Martin Akhtar (3-1), Martin Svensson (12-5) vs. Robbie Olivier (20-9-1)

Arena Tour 2

Luna Park Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Event Date: March 22
Website: arenatour.com.ar
Twitter: @ArenaTourMMA

Spotlight Fight:
Nazareno Malegarie (26-3) vs. Derinaldo Guerra da Silva (17-0)

It doesn’t get much more intriguing than a battle between a pair of fighters who check in with a combined record of 43 wins and just three losses. Bellator veteran Nazareno Malegarie, who possesses a 26-3 career mark, and undefeated 17-fight veteran Derinaldo Guerra da Silva headline Arena Tour MMA’s second effort, which takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Malegarie is a three-time Bellator tournament veteran. With just one win in four appearance in the Bellator cage, he has struggled to find success on the biggest stage of his MMA career. The same cannot be said of his ventures into judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition. The BJJ black belt won a World championship when he was a blue belt, and he is a two-time judo champion in Argentina. The 27-year-old, who made his professional MMA debut in 2007, has only suffered three losses in his career, and all three came in Bellator tournament action. He dropped those three fights via decision against Rad Martinez, Marlon Sandro and recently dethroned Bellator featherweight champion Daniel Straus. The Team Tavares fighter has 15 submission wins, but his fists have accounted for an additional eight victories.

Guerra hasn’t received the international exposure that Malegarie was afforded with his trips to Bellator, but the 34-year-old has maintained a spotless record through 17 outings. Guerra also made his pro debut in 2007, and he has reeled off eight wins by some form of knockout and two via submission. The Base MMA Club product has had five fights end in split decisions, so he does have a tendency to barely scrape by on occasion. That might be acceptable if he were fighting fellow prospects, but he’s not. His split decisions have come against fighters with records of 5-7, 1-7, 0-1 and 2-6. Two of those split verdicts were against the 5-7 fighter, Jean Christopher Viana Dias.

The initial glance at the records suggests a competitive affair between two fighters on the brink of a big break. In reality, this is probably going to turn into a one-sided drubbing. Malegarie has yet to find success in U.S.-based promotions, but he’s a BJJ stud and did survive to the bitter end in his losses against legitimate competition, including a top-10 featherweight in Straus. Guerra could land one of his kicks to shock the world and take a knockout victory, but the smart money is on Malegarie, who should find takedowns with ease and lock in a fight-ending submission for the win.

Other key bouts: Esteban Bonaveri (8-2) vs. Ricardo Tirloni (16-5), Dirlei Broenstrup (8-3) vs. Rogelio Ortiz (2-0), Javier Oyarzabal (3-0) vs. Pablo Dhorta (1-0), Guillermo Martinez (5-0) vs. Cristobal Gonzalez (4-1), Alexandre Hoffmann (3-0) vs. Ivan Galaz (6-6), Nicolas Sopranzi (4-1) vs. Martin Mollinedo (8-5)